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Pakistan court orders election officials to end intrusive questions of candidates

A court in Pakistan ruled [judgment, PDF] on Friday that election officials must refrain from asking irrelevant and intrusive questions of candidates for public office. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Lahore High Court [official website] issued the ruling in the wake of Returning Officers, who are primarily lower court judges, asking candidates to recite specific passages in the Quran or asking inappropriate questions about candidates' personal lives [PTI report]. Justice Shah proclaimed that his order was necessary to maintain the integrity of Pakistan's judiciary: "[T]he judiciary is there to achieve fair and free elections and not to carry out a witch hunt and demean the politicians of our country." In his decision, Justice Shah also ordered all election officials to forbid the broadcast of courtroom proceedings.

Pakistan's judiciary has been the subject of international scrutiny recently. Earlier this week, the Lahore High Court acquitted a Christian man who was sentenced to death for blasphemy [JURIST report]. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Pakistan [JURIST report] to hold former military ruler Pervez Musharraf accountable for alleged human rights abuses upon his return to the country, saying that dealing with the charges "will be a real test for Pakistan's judiciary." Earlier in March the High Court of Sindh Karachi [official website] granted protective bail [JURIST report] to Musharraf.

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